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THE LEGACY OF STEPHEN: A PRO-PAUL FACTION IN JERUSALEM? Jon Paulien Andrews University
Acts chapter 21 contains the interesting account of Paul's last recorded visit to Jerusalem. According to Luke's outline, Paul is a disputed figure in Jerusalem.1 Elements of the church receive him with gladness (Acts 21:17). But many more in Jerusalem are seriously distressed by rumours that Paul is turning the Jewish Christians of the Diaspora away from the customs and practices of Judaism (Acts 21:20,21). Some interesting details in the chapter suggest that this division reflects to the earlier division among the Christians in Jerusalem alluded to in Acts 6. The purpose of this brief article is to examine Acts 21:15-17 in that light of what we know about early Christianity in Jerusalem. Following the crucifixion of Jesus his disciples returned to Galilee for a time as is clear from the accounts of resurrection appearances there (Mark 16:7; Matt 28; John 21).2 Subsequent to this the twelve (or eleven) regrouped and returned to Jerusalem, possibly under the leadership of Peter.3 According to the portrait in Acts there was a remarkable sense of unity among those who first confessed the risen Christ (Acts 2:44; 4:32). But this picture of unity is quickly shattered by a dispute between the "Hebrews" (hebraious) and the "Hellenists"
1 While the historicity of much of the book of Acts is in dispute among scholars of the NT, Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity, trans. M. Eugene Boring (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1
Luedemann agrees that the disciples moved to Galilee for a time and that the first appeara Ibid., p. 41.
(hellênistôn) over the proper distribution of the common stores (Acts 6:1).4 In the context of Acts, these Hellenists were not Gentiles but rather Greek speaking Jews.5 To secure fairness, the Hellenists elected their own leadership group, the Seven.6 A prominent member of this group, Stephen, enters into disputes with non-Christian Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6:8-10). He is then martyred as a blasphemer for "speaking against the temple and the law" and "changing the customs handed down from Moses." Acts 6:11-14. Following the martyrdom of Stephen the church is scattered by persecution (Acts 8:1), but since this scattering does not affect "the apostles" it is reasonable to assume that the outbreak was primarily directed at the hellenistic group. Following this incident the book of Acts makes no further mention of a hellenistic group in Jerusalem. In Acts 21:8, however, one of the Seven, Philip, provides housing for Paul and his delegation of Gentiles from the churches of Greece and Asia Minor. What makes this incident significant is the fact that when Paul travels to Jerusalem from there "some of the disciples from Caesarea" accompanied Paul and escorted him to the home of Mnason where Paul was to stay while in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15,16). The language here implies that Mnason was not know to Paul and was well-known to the believers in Caesarea who associated with Philip. Does the "Philip connection" imply that Mnason was a member of the original "Hellenist group" in Jerusalem, and that he had returned there after the persecution died down? Do the theological
4 Hengel is particularly struck by the abrupt break between the unity of the church portraye History of Christianity (London: SCM Press, 1983), p. 1.
5 Hans Conzelmann and Andreas Lindemann, Interpreting the New Testament: An Introduction to 1988), p. 349. According to Acts 10, the first Gentile to confess Christ was Cornelius.
The names and the number of this group are widely considered historical. Luedemann, p. 41. Jesus and Paul, pp. 3-4. One wonders if the ratio between the Seven and the Twelve are in any way indicative of t in themselves.
leanings of which Stephen was accused apply also to Mnason and does this explain why he was specially chosen to host Paul? The name Mnason [Greek mnasôn], possibly a Hellenized form of Manasseh,7 may be derived from mnasion a word used in ancient Cyprus for a measure of grain. Sinaiticus replaces Mnason with Jason, a rather common name among Hellenized Jews. Mentioned only in Acts 21:16, Mnason provided lodging for Paul and his gentile companions. Mnason was a native of Cyprus like Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Munck suggests that he may have been among the Cypriots who left Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen and preached the gospel directly to the Greeks at Antioch (Acts 11:19,20).8 The fact that Mnason is called an "early disciple" has engendered considerable discussion. Rengstorf considers Mnason a personal disciple of Jesus.9 This is most interesting since he also argues that mathêtês was the designation that all early Palestinian Christians used for themselves.10 Hughes suggests that he was one of the 120 in Acts 1:15.11 Knowling proposes that he was a convert of Barnabas from among the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem.12 The matter is not easily resolved. Luke did not consider Jesus' circle of disciples to be small (Luke 6:17; 19:37), therefore Mnason's discipleship could go back to the days of Jesus' ministry. However, in Acts 15:7 Peter uses the term "early" (archaiô) to refer to the time when Cornelius was converted
F. F. Bruce, The Pauline Circle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 99.
This could explain
Johannes Munck, The Acts of the Apostles, revised by W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, AB 31 K. H. Rengstorf, "mathêtês," Ibid., pp. 457-458. J. J. Hughes, "Mnason," ISBE. Revised edition. TDNT. Trans. Geoffrey Bromiley from German, 1942, 1967.
3:388-389. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 198
R. J. Knowling, The Acts of the Apostles, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 2.
(Acts 10:1-11:18). Thus, Mnason's conversion may have occurred at any time from early in Jesus' ministry through the early years of the Jerusalem church. A textual problem in Acts 21:15-17 betrays some uncertainty as to where Mnason lived. According to D and a handful of Syriac manuscripts Mnason's house was in a village between Caesarea and Jerusalem. The arrival of Paul and his companions in Jerusalem is then described in verse 17 where "the brethren" (presumably the whole Christian church) received them gladly. This leaves the impression that Paul received a favorable reception in Jerusalem. But the most natural reading of the vast majority of manuscripts (contra Knowling,13) suggests that "the brethren" of verse 17 were limited to Mnason and his associates (probably a small group of Hellenists) in Jerusalem and that Paul was received "gladly" by only a few. It was not until the next day that Paul met James and the elders (Acts 21:18). Verse 22 implies that the bulk of Jewish Christians were still unaware that Paul had arrived. While Delebecque (1983: 446-455) considers D Luke's own clarification of an earlier text,14 it is more likely D's copyist attempted to smooth over the Jerusalem church's apparent snub of Paul. If Mnason was living in Jerusalem at that time, it is likely, that he identified himself with the Hellenists of Acts 6 and the theology of Stephen (Acts 6:14).15 Most of Paul's eight Gentile companions were uncircumcised (cf. Acts 20:4). The typical Christian in Jerusalem would find hospitality problematic under such circumstances, if not outright dangerous in such a heavily
13 Knowling (p. 447) argues that even in the non-Western text the durative force of the Gree The journey begins in verse 15, stops over at Mnason's house in verse 16 and attains Jerusalem in 23:23-33 makes it clear that the trip could easily be made in a day if horses were utilized.
E. Delebecque, "La dernière étape du troisème voyage missionnaire de saint Paul selon les
Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, trans. Bernard Noble and Gerald Shinn, rev. and
Jewish context.16 But as a Hellenist who shared the liberalk sympathies of Stephen Mnason would be open to such hospitality.17 As an "early disciple" he was known and respected by the church at Jerusalem. As a Cypriot he had connections with people Paul knew and trusted. Thus, the "disciples of Caesarea" (Acts 21:16) considered Mnason the logical choice to host Paul and his companions in Jerusalem. The "brothers" of 21:17 who welcomed Paul gladly were Hellenists like Stephen, Mnason, and Philip who would be comfortable with Paul both in their theology and in their practice.18 The mention of Mnason's name and the reference to his being an "early disciple" suggest that he may have been a source of information about events in Caesarea and Jerusalem that are reported in Acts.19 According to Acts 21:16, Paul and his companions were received as guests (xenisthômen) at the house of Mnason. The location of that house is not specifically indicated in the text. As a subjunctive in a relative clause xenisthômen appropriately expresses volition, namely that they had decided ahead of time that they would stay there.20 Why is Mnason mentioned at all in the story? Cadbury points out that Luke betrays considerable interest in the hosts and hostesses of Paul. For him Mnason was an important figure,
Stählin, p. 276.
Gustav Stählin, Die Apostelgeschichte, NTD, vol. 5, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1 Stählin, p. 275.
19 F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, rev. ed., NICNT 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988)p. 402 Rapids, Zondervan, ????):4:257; F. J. Foakes-Jackson, and Kirsopp Lake, The Beginnings of Christia worthiness of the New Testament, reprint of 1911 lectures, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953), p. 309 not
A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research
even if he was unknown to most readers.21
Henry J. Cadbury, "Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts.
III. Luke's Interest in Lodging." Journal